Promoting your products and services with user-generated content is growing in popularity among businesses big and small. In fact, a recent study by TurnToNetworks shows that for 90% of customers, user-generated content (UGC) has more influence over their buying decisions in comparison to promotional emails and even what they find in a quick Google search.
In this blog post, we will walk you through what user-generated content is, why it matters for marketers, and 3 examples of how you can utilize it to get more leads, sales, and overall performance from your advertising efforts.
What is User-Generated Content?
In the world of marketing, UGC or user-generated content is a term used to refer to content that’s related to your company (or its products and services), but that was not created by an employee or an official representative of the brand. It could be something as simple as a social media update, a review, and even an entire video, podcast, or any other kind of content that can be produced. Basically, any content that involves your company but wasn’t created by an employee or a person affiliated with the business is considered UGC.
Why is User-Generated Content Effective?
Unfortunately, marketers are primarily considered to be an untrustworthy source of information. Everyone knows that the primary task of advertising is to present services and products in the best way possible, and people assume that in the process, marketers are likely to hide the negative aspects of the product/service they’re promoting.
That’s mostly true since most marketing campaigns tend to put an emphasis on the good sides of a company and what it produces. This is done by photoshopping pictures, taking videos at the best possible angle, and staging specific photoshoots – all that to create the best possible ad.
So, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that most customers don’t trust ads and don’t really consider them as an influential source of information for their buying decisions.
By knowing all that, you’re probably beginning to understand what makes user-generated content so effective; it’s simply not coming from marketers – the people who lie, stage photoshoots, hide negative aspects, and run advertisements. That’s not something marketers simply do; it was proven by the already mentioned study from TurnTo Networks. People consider unboxing videos, product reviews, Instagram photos, and TikTok showcases to be much more authentic. Thus, they increase their confidence that the service or product they’re considering is actually worth the investment. Customers want to have a more immersive shopping experience, and they use search engines and social media platforms to look for fellow shoppers’ opinions. That way, they can get an answer to their questions regarding the product/service and more easily make up their minds on whether to spend money.
Because UGC is so effective, marketers should try to incorporate it in every step of the customer journey. If you don’t know how to do that, then keep on reading as we share the guidelines below.
How to Incorporate User-Generated Content in Your Marketing Strategy
There are several steps to take in order to incorporate user-generated content in your advertising efforts effectively. The most vital is to have a plan! Around 86% of companies say that they try to incorporate UGC in their marketing efforts, but only 27% admit to having had a plan as to how to do that. Which ones do you think execute the most effectively?
If you want to be a part of that 27%, let’s look at what you have to figure out before introducing UGC into your marketing strategy.
Determine Your Goal
Yay! You’ve made the decision to include user-generated content in your advertising efforts. However, their effectiveness largely depends on the kind of UGC you plan to collect and how you use it afterward. For example, if your goal is to boost brand awareness, then a hashtag campaign on IG or TikTok can be a fantastic way to get people talking about your brand.
On the other hand, if your main goal is to increase website conversions, a campaign focused on collecting customer reviews can be much more helpful as it will help you convince more customers that your products are worth their money.
You have to keep in mind that the goal of any UGC-related marketing campaign is to get people to generate applicable content that will be of interest to your target customer base and will influence your customers’ buying decisions. While we love to see it, your only goal iusn’t just to see people posting pretty pictures of your product on Instagram. Your first step is to determine what you want to accomplish with your UGC before creating hashtags and asking people for personalized content.
Establish a Way to Collect Content
One of the best ways to protect yourself against information overload or confusion after a UGC campaign ends is to establish a system for collecting the content beforehand. Here’s what that looks like: you can create a submission box where your customers are encouraged to upload their creations or use a specifically designated app for that purpose. Most companies prefer to “collect” the content with the help of a branded social media hashtag that all customers need to use for their posts. If you opt for using a hashtag, you have to keep in mind that things can get a little tricky with ownership rights over videos or photos, as they don’t technically belong to you, and, in some cases, you need to get approval to use them. By collecting user-generated content with the help of an app or a portal, you can be 100% certain that you can use all your customers’ creations without having to worry about potential legal issues.
Have a Crystal Clear Message
There are companies who organically benefit from user-generated content because their product already has the capability to capture content in their design (think of companies like GoPro). But that’s not the case for most brands out there, and those companies usually have to offer customers something in exchange for the produced content. Some opt for providing prize money, while others offer shop gift cards and discount codes.
If you’re set on running a campaign to collect UGC, you need to establish rules for participation and come up with an award before kicking it off. That way your guidelines will be clear to the audience and each party will know what they can expect from the other. Make sure to relay all the rules and prizes in writing, using plain language and not as a part of the Terms & Conditions. You don’t want to let your customers down or not meet their expectations, and the best way to avoid such situations is by making everything clear from the start. Remember, UGC is about building trust!
Schedule a Legal Consultation
From a legal point of view, running a campaign to generate user content is a complex situation. In most cases, the rules surrounding giveaways are complicated and differ based on your location and how you plan to collect the content. In order to not get into any legal trouble and to avoid future complications over ownership rights, the best thing you can do is consult an attorney before you start the campaign. That way your rules will be clearly determined, and you will know exactly what you’re legally allowed to do with the content you’re receiving. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
Learn from the Negative; Share the Positive
User-generated content gives your customers a more authentic experience and provides you with great content with which to build your brand. However, there is always a chance you’ll receive negative feedback. Content that criticizes the products or company should be taken into consideration and discussed internally, but should not be shown to your audience if you can help it. If the review is public, make sure to address the person and do what you can to remediate the issue or explain the misunderstanding.
Mae sure you monitor all your submissions carefully and choose only the best creations that you were provided with. Feature these in your promotional campaign and use on social media – in the marketing world, they are as valuable as toilet paper in March of 2020!
User-Generated Content Examples
GoPro’s YouTube Channel
GoPro was one of the first companies to truly utilize the power of user-generated content. Several years back, the brand started uploading the content their users were generating to their YouTube channel. At some point in 2013, it was estimated that around 6,000 GoPro videos were uploaded to YouTube daily.
Now, if you search for GoPro on the platform, you will find more than 40,000,000 results. The company’s YouTube channel is among the most popular, with 10,000,000 subscribers and billions of views.
So many people love GoPro’s videos and watch them because they’re entirely immersive, and they never feel like an advertisement (even though they technically are). GoPro is considered to be one of the pioneers in implementing user-generated content in their marketing strategy. You should go check it out, it definitely sucks you in!
Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins Campaign
If you’re a fashion or sporting goods brand, generating organic user-content is one of the best marketing efforts you can take on. It can lead to increased conversions, traffic, and ROI (return on investment). Calvin Klein is one of those companies! They rely on social media to inspire user generated content.
Do you remember Brooke Shield’s famous whisper, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins.”? That iconic line from one of the brand’s ads inspired a hashtag (#InMyCalvins) on Instagram. The company challenged people wearing their underwear to participate in a contest by uploading a photo with the tagline: “I ……. in my Calvins.” The results were incredible – in just a few months, the hashtag #InMyCalvin took over IG and had over 190,000 photos posted using the hashtag.
When Calvin Klein saw the success of this campaign, they quickly transferred it over to all their other social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter. Many years after the initial start of the #InMyCalvins hashtag, the company still uses a variation of it (#mycalvins), which clearly shows just how influential it was.
Back in 2014, Starbucks started a viral campaign with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. The idea was to encourage customers to draw on their white Starbucks cups, and the winning designs would then become templates for future Starbucks cups. This simple idea inspired many and quickly became viral on Twitter. Thanks to this campaign, Starbucks not only received an abundance of images of people drawing on their white coffee cups, but they also saw a dramatic increase in activity across all social media platforms!
Following the success of its 2014 campaign, the brand launched a new one in 2016, this time called the #RedCupArt challenge. Again, it quickly went viral and inspired many customers to share their creations on both Instagram and Twitter.
Taking Your Next Steps with UGC
Before starting any social media campaign with the hopes of earning some user-generated content, you should keep in mind that it’s not only about coming up with a catchy hashtag. Implementing user-generated content in a marketing campaign is a double-edged sword. It’s true that it can impact some metrics in an extremely positive way, but at the same time, if not done correctly, it can also have a negative impact. It’s essential to understand how UGC works, as well as when and how you should use it for the best possible results.
For a UGC campaign to be effective, it has to provide value to both you and the consumers. It can be used as a way to show how your service or product is useful, or it can be a way to spread brand awareness. Regardless of how you present yourself, you should include a value proposition for the people looking to do business with you. Remember: the first step is to determine your end goal!
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